Sunday, January 25, 2009


Sunday evening cradles me in relaxation, and I think of the rejuvenation that is central to the meaning of this day for so many. My mind is rested and quiet. I got to enjoy the innocence of sweet Amara, Brian’s daughter, as she took her Peruvian bucket bath. Her curiosity is amazing and such a delight, a constant reminder our growth and change.

I began today with a family lunch outing with Brian’s Peruvian family. Sunday lunch is a large family affair and is more or less an expectation. If you decide not to go, you have to have a really compelling reason or it is taken as an insult. Off we drove toward the little town about 5 miles down the road, Banos del Inca, an old Incan post with wonderful thermal baths that are fed by hot springs. Brian and his wife Cecy sat in the back of the car with me with Amara on their lap. It made me think about our laws and how you wouldn’t be caught dead with a baby out of a car seat in the U.S. There are no car seats here, and it is a common site to see a father on his small moto (motorcycle) with the baby in front of him next to the handlebars. This is just the way people do things here.

I know by now that going to a typical meal with Peruvians will mean I have to explain that I don’t eat meat. This is absolutely crazy to everyone here, and they just don’t understand how I can live this way. I try to explain to them I just don’t like the texture more than anything, but they continue to question my strange custom. Ordering vegetarian food is even more difficult since it is usually not on the menu. Moreover, ordering is just not the affair of one person here, but the entire family starts getting involved and saying what I could eat and telling the waiter what it should look like. This “familial involvement” is very typical in other scenarios. You may ask a question like “Where can I find an alarm clock?” and suddenly the women asks the other worker and they ask their brother, and then the friend who just walks in gets asked also. After about 3 minutes, you usually have a crowd of people talking to one another about what you need.

So, my rice with vegetables took center stage. How would this be prepared? Did I want them with meat? Did I want pork? Did I want fish? Did I want seafood? I answered every question with “Just rice and vegetables please.” But serious disbelief continued “Nothing else? Nothing?” No, nothing else. Rice and veggies . Surrounding tables began listening in also and giving their advice. Rice and veggies did end up coming successfully which amazed me, since pretty much more than half of the time it will come with something else that they thought I should eat with the rice and veggies.

After our meal, I decided to do the absolutely coolest thing you can do in Cajamarca on Sunday—go to the “mall.” Now, the mall was constructed in 2006 after I had returned to the U.S. from living here, so when I saw it for the first time a year ago, I was in disbelief. Think about the strangeness in combining Incan tradition with a small but modern mall? The mall essentially is a large warehouse building on the outside with a typical mall store layout inside. The hottest thing about the mall is the escalator. People come from fields afar to ride the escalator. Imagine people who had worked in the fields their entire lives who now walk inside a mall to ride an escalator?! The meshing of two worlds is very distinct and palpable in a very nonsensical kind of way. The campesinos (traditional folks) that do come to the mall simply walk around in awe, trying to understand a world that is completely foreign to them. I walked right by a group of campesinos studying the escalator as they watched me mount this metal stairway with ease. I looked back down as I was carried further away from them, and it kind of seemed symbolic to me as our cultures moved further away from one another.

looking up to the heights
of modernity
bathed in pale fluorescent light
the grinding metal monster
to lift them to the highlands of consumption

they stare wide-eyed
to “where the wild things are”
a line of more than fifty anxious people
with cracked sandaled feet
bright layered skirts
sunbeaten campesino hats
deciding timidly if they will mount this silver-toothed beast
wondering how their fields of potatoes
exist in this same world

they step cautiously for their turn
as the line grows
there is an empathy of patience and fear
Change scales upward before them
the before
the after
the experience
will make them different
by the knowing.
we change
and the world changes.

To your own rejuvenation for this week of discovery, MM

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